Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
After more than 10 years of staging plays, a Havre-based drama troupe is bringing a production back home as part of its state tour. “When they come this weekend it’s kind of a homecoming for this cast,” said Jay Pyette, president of Montana Actors’ Theatre and the author of “Rugburns.” The crew is bringing “Rugburns” to Havre Thursday and Friday after a run in the Crystal Theatre in Missoula last week, and will follow it up with a production at a festival in Kalispell Saturday. The acting troupe, formed by Pyette and Grant Olson in Havre in the 1990s, has expanded with productions in Missoula the troupe produced “ART” by Yasmina Reza in Missoula June 12-14 and Olson said there are already seven Missoula productions in the works for next season. The connections in Kalispell Brian Gregoire hooked up MAT with the festival there are also growing. “One of the big things we're pushing for MAT now is to have chapters in other communities,” Pyette said. “We’re strong here, building in Missoula, and looking toward Kalispell seeing if we can build up a chapter of MAT there as well.” The tradition has continued in Havre, with MAT finishing up its 2007-2008 season with its highly acclaimed first musical production “The Man of La Mancha” in July and holding its annual children’s theater workshop and production this month. The troupe is now setting its Havre productions for the 2008-2009 season. The acting troupe has already given international exposure to Havre actors. Olson brought a cast from Havre to London to perform Pyette’s play “Dead of Winter” in 2003. Olson produced the play as part of the final requirements in his earning a master’s degree in a combined program of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and King’s College. Pyette and Olson have collaborated in more than 70 theatrical productions since forming MAT and also on the feature film “Rosaries,” filmed and produced in Havre. The Havre influence is shown in the cast of the production of “Rugburns.” Of the seven cast members, five are originally from Havre. Those are Olson, who is directing and playing a part in the play, Torger Hauge, Dave Martens, Carly Booth and Jared Branden. Pyette, a Chinook native, is an English teacher and heads the drama program at Havre High School. Olson said the performance of “Rugburns” has some special homecoming aspects for him the last time he and Booth, Hauge and Branden acted together in Havre was when they performed in “You Can’t Take It With You” in the Havre High drama program in 1996. Michelle Edwards and Deborah Voss also joined the cast and are traveling to Havre and then Kalispell, and Pyette said more Missoulians are expressing interest in working with MAT “We’ve already had some Missoula people e-mailing, saying they want to be involved,” Pyette said. Olson said the people who saw the Missoula productions of “ART” and “Rugburns” seem to be impressed. “We’re building an audience base down here,” he said. Pyette said the version of “Rugburns” is quite bit different than when it was performed in Havre about three years ago. He has extensively rewritten the script for this season’s performance. “It’s a much better story. It’s much tighter,” he said. The story which has adult elements including language and brief nudity tells the preparation for and misadventures during a dinner party. The couple throwing the party, played by Hauge and Edwards, get into an argument before the party starts. Hauge’s character attempts to resolve the argument by bringing out an old rug fragment, and the troubles begin when he implements his plan: whoever is standing on the carpet speaks, telling only the truth, while the other listens. The plan goes seriously awry when the dinner guests and a bystander who comes in to use the telephone arrive and take part in the action. The production, which costs $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors, opens at 8 p.m. at the MAT Theatre on the west end of Cowan Hall at Montana State University-Northern. The MAT lounge next to the theater in Cowan Hall will open at 7:30 p.m.